by Sandy McCormick Olgierd Czeslaw Dobrostanski, 68, is one of the best-known residents of Texada Island, but few people would recognize his name. Called Doby by everyone, the prolific artist and airplane aficionado is the creator of much of the island’s public art and is the founder of the annual fly-in and aerospace camp for youth.
His creative energy knows few bounds. Doby’s idea for a moonlight run last spring evolved into Run the Rock marathon and half-marathon races, now slated to be an annual event. He’s a key organizer of many arts and tourism activities, including an artists’ studio tour being planned for this August.
Doby was born in Tel Aviv, a city which at that time was in the British protectorate of Palestine. His parents were both in the Polish army under British command, his dad coming from an aristocratic family dating back to 900 AD. They moved to England when Doby was a toddler and while out walking with his grandmother there he first noticed a plane flying overhead. “She said to me ‘that was one of the boys who helped us win the war,’ and that triggered something in me that has been with me ever since, a passion for aviation.”
They moved to Edmonton, where Doby was an air cadet and created a comic strip about a fighter pilot. Subsequently, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a military aircraft technician and attended the University of Manitoba, then graduate school at the University of Alberta where he studied aerospace anthropology. He earned the Doby nickname while in the air force, which he left in 1978 to work for private industry as an aircraft technical writer.
In Alberta, he began painting prairie and mountain scenes. “I found that people were willing to pay me to paint landscapes, portraits and images of industry and machines. Within a few years, I learned to find markets and to promote my art to special interest groups.” In the 1980s, he developed a “systematic method of doing art as a business,” and after living abroad for a few years he settled in Victoria, where he painted exterior murals on buildings and a mural of a tranquil beach scene for BC Ferries’ Queen of Saanich.
By the mid-1990s, Doby moved to Vancouver, and he experimented with fibreglass sculpture and “techno-art,” which incorporated LED and laser lights into his work. As well, his aviation-oriented paintings and sculptures were commissioned by Red Robin restaurant chain and Geological Survey of Canada. Currently, reproductions of his aviation paintings are for sale at the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley. He also painted murals of historical subjects for the Vancouver Museum, Vancouver Police Historical Museum and University of British Columbia.
In 1995, Doby first visited Texada, where his wife Gail was visiting family. He “fell in love with the island’s natural beauty, a veritable banquet of scenery, and its wonderful people.” They bought a house in Gillies Bay and moved to Texada in 2003. “After being in Vancouver, it was like living in paradise.”
He supervised the painting of two RCMP-sponsored murals at Gillies Bay General Store and Texada Elementary School and painted a mural at the Blubber Bay Historical Museum as well as the large “welcome to Texada” sign which greets visitors up the hill from the ferry terminal. He also visits the school about once a month, sharing his love of
art with local children.
Doby uses acrylic paints rather than oils, which he says are cleaner, faster to dry and less likely to crack. Much of his commissioned work is painted from photographs, which he enhances by “prettying up” the surroundings with better weather and added details. As an artist, he says it’s important to have an affinity with the subject and to communicate a message to the viewer. “Things like the choices of colour and the use of lines affect the mood the painting conveys.”
The idea for the Texada Fly-in came from attending an airshow in Comox. Doby, a glider pilot, went to meet and swap stories with other “airplane nuts.” He then organized Texada’s first fly-in in 2007. About 55 pilots and planes attend the annual summer event at Texada Island airport, which is popular with local residents as well. Further continuing to share his love of aviation, Doby organized two “aerospace camps” for youth, the third being planned for this summer. “The camps allow kids to do stuff they wouldn’t normally do as they explore their interest in aviation.”
He believes special events attracting visitors to Texada are important to the island’s future as it evolves from a primarily resource-based economy. “If you don’t have a hand in helping to create something, then others will come in from outside and create it for you.”